Eastern Cape’s high prevalence of TB infections is cause for concern

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The Eastern Cape provincial government is concerned about the high prevalence of Tuberculosis (TB) infections in the province.

Four of the 27 districts in the country with a high TB infection rate are from the Eastern Cape: Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay, the Sarah Baartman region, and OR Tambo.

The Eastern Cape government marked World TB Day in Dimbaza, near Qonce, with a focus on testing, treatment and awareness.

The stigma patients face remains a huge stumbling block in the fight against the disease.

TB Survivor Thuliwe Mbonde says, “I was a joke in my community. Some people were saying that I am HIV positive, they didn’t know that I had TB. I ended up isolating myself and I was indoors most of the time…”

Tracing TB patients

The high incidence of TB patients defaulting on their treatment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was also noted as a contributing factor. The Department of Health in the province says it is now tracing patients so they can complete their treatment.

TB detection and care first client completes treatment:

Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth says, “Even though we tried to have some stations to give people their treatments for chronic medication but people did not come so we are trying to catch up to get our people…”

The department says it has also ensured that all health facilities in the Eastern Cape, including clinics, provide TB-related services.

The TB prevalence report published by the NICD in 2021 says that South Africa is one of the 30 high TB infection countries contributing 87% of the estimated incident TB cases worldwide. The country accounts for 3% of cases globally.

It says, among these 30 high burden TB countries, South Africa is among the 14 countries with the highest burden of TB, TB/HIV and multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

The report additionally states that the country’s TB epidemic is driven by a number of factors including low socio-economic status and a high HIV co-infection burden.

Additionally, delayed health-seeking behaviour among individuals with TB, as well as a high burden of undiagnosed disease in communities also drive the TB epidemic. –Additional reporting: Bongisipho Magcaba